Hanover Lightning Bolt | Hamptons Earth Grounding

HANOVER — A Ridgedale Avenue home was severely damaged in a fire Saturday evening that started with a lightning strike.

“It hit the telephone wire –the lightning — and then it hit the house and it started the fire,” said Daniel “DJ” Norton Jr., an 8-year-old who lives at the corner of Ridgedale and South Belair avenues. Norton said he was looking out of his large living room window, which faces the right-hand side of the Ridgedale Avenue house, when the lightning hit.

His father, Daniel Norton, was in the kitchen making meatballs when he head an explosion, then heard his son yell that there was a fire.

“Oh my God, the whole house was engulfed!” the elder Norton said. “Wires were sparking all over the place, from the telephone pole. They were dangling from the house, and the house was ablaze.”

He said he and other neighbors wanted to check to see if there was anyone inside the burning house, but the dangling wires kept them away.

Jim Davidson, Cedar Knolls fire department chief, confirmed Saturday night that the fire was ignited by a lightning strike, and said emergency personnel had been dispatched to the scene at around 6:30 p.m. after dispatch received numerous calls about the incident.

Fire companies from Cedar Knolls, Whippany and Morris Township responded to the blaze, as well as the Madison FAST team and Hanover police.

Davidson said there was no one in the single-family home at the time of the fire; however, a dog did perish.

The investigation was wrapped up around 9:30 p.m., he said, and the fire ruled accidental.

Davidson said that there was high volume of fire due to the vinyl siding and the age of the house.

Neighbors told authorities that the house was built in the 1920s.

Darshil Sandesara, a 9-year-old boy, had just finished making his Mother’s Day gift at a friends house and was about to head to his South Belair Avenue home when he heard a big pop.

“I went to the street (Ridgedale Avenue) and I saw a fire bigger than my bike on the front porch, on the left side on the corner,” he said. Sandesara raced down South Belair screaming “Fire! Fire!” to alert his neighbors, he said.

Sidney VonDohln, who lives directly across the Ridgedale Avenue home, said that she was taking a bath when she suddenly heard what sounded like a child screaming “Fire!” then a huge “bang” and a second explosion.

Seconds later, her husband, who headed out to their front porch to have a cigarette, yelled that the house across the street was on fire.

“It was just like you couldn’t see the house,” she said. “All you saw was fire. It was so scary. From here we could feel the heat of the fire.”

VonDohln said that the owners, an engaged couple, lived in the house for about four years. She said that his parents own Eamonn’s Upholstery, located at 106 Ridgedale, right next door to the burned house.

VonDohln said that the owner had significantly improved the house since purchasing it.

“He’s put so much work into that house,” she said. “He’s been a very good neighbor. He kept the property nice, did a lot of the work himself. It was in disrepair and he really fixed it up.”

VonDohln said that she was sorry for the owner’s loss.

“If there is anything I can do for him, I’d be happy to do it,”she said.

Davidson said the house is not habitable, and that its residents are staying with family.

Joan McCormack, who was attending the 5 p.m. Mass at Notre Dame Of Mount Carmel Church just a couple of blocks away, said that she and her daughter Joanie McCormack were preparing to leave the church when they heard what sounded like a cannon explosion.

Minutes later, they heard the fire engines.

“We saw all the smoke,” she said. “This whole house was engulfed in flames.”

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